For small businesses the term “Road Warrior” more likely evokes an image of a wary traveler dressed in business causal armed with numerous portable devices than a leather-clad Mel Gibson in a post apocalyptic future. Who has the tougher life is open to debate.
For today’s road warriors, being able to connect with the home office has made life a bit simpler, especially for those who spend a lot of time in remote locations. IDC forecast last year that the mobile worker population will reach 113.5 million in 2008, up from 98.5 million in 2004. Staying connected is much more than checking messages.
Remote access allows for seamless integration and the sharing of important information between employees. This is true even when they’re hundreds or thousands of miles apart. This has meant increased productivity, at least when things work well. But what do you do when things go wrong?
In a typical office you call the IT guy and someone comes to your desk. In a home or small office situation you can talk your way through phone tech support, and still have someone come to your desk when necessary. An IT guy can’t just get on the plane to fix a problem when you’re on the road, however. Nor is it cost effective to send a computer back to the home office to be repaired, especially if the fix isn’t that great in the first place. And while the IT department can attempt to diagnose, and further resolve any problems over the phone, this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Anyone who has ever called tech support for their desktop knows this can be a long and trying experience. A better option is to let the IT department see what you’re seeing, and one way is via remote support.
Fortunately today’s operating systems, including Windows Vista and XT offer Remote Assistance and Remote Desktop that can be used to provide remote support. These even come free with Windows XP, and can be used as along as you have an Internet connection. With Remote Assistance users send a request or an invitation to a remote helper via e-mail so he/she can connect to their computer to diagnose or fix a problem. Once you are connected, the helper will have full access to the remote user’s desktop where he/she can perform their tasks. While the helper is connected to the remote user’s computer, the user can watch on their screen everything the helper is doing.
The other popular way of providing remote support is via the Remote Desktop. This method is more intended for system administers, and lets them connect to the company’s server to troubleshoot a problem. A firewall can be an issue, but it shouldn’t be anything that will stand in the way provided legitimate access is provided.
Other off-the-shelf solutions such as GoTo Assist offer Web-based support for IT help desks, as well as a range of companies including outsourcers, developers and consulting organizations. This allows remote workers the same access to applications and internal resources as local employees, and can also help reduce IT support woes by providing a Web-based solution.